"How did Detroit get this way?"
"Why are the city and suburbs so divided?"
"What does it mean to revitalize Detroit?"
"Are sports stadiums and events the key to economic development?"
"Is gentrification a good or bad thing?"
These are some common questions that are frequently heard in relation to Detroit. Digging below the surface of popular discourse and disagreement, this course seeks to get at the roots of urban social, political and economic issues. It offers students an opportunity to gain an in-depth perspective on racism, poverty, political activism, and community organizing among diverse groups. First, we will study what historian Thomas Sugrue has called the “origins of the urban crisis.” We will examine the effects of deindustrialization and racism in the post-World War II era alongside the emergence of protest movements which sought to promote social justice. Second, we will study the divergent ways that city and suburban politicians and residents interpret the “urban crisis,” and we will critically analyze their response Third, we will probe the history of radicalism in Detroit and investigate the grassroots solutions to the “crisis” being enacted by community organizations.
Designed to link the study of Detroit’s past, present, and future, this interdisciplinary course should appeal to students in a variety of fields, including history, ethnic studies, urban studies, education, law, business, environmental justice and fine arts. There are no prerequisites or prequalifications. You may have lived in the city your entire life, or you might only know the Fox Theater, the Tigers and Xochimilco. Highly-motivated students may be offered opportunities to fulfill course requirements through community service-learning activities.